By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Reminding the faithful that the gift of God is one to be shared, especially in dark times, Bishop Edward J. Burns during celebration of Christmas Mass recalled the story of Reginald Fessenden’s 1906 Christmas Eve message.
Fessenden famously set up his violin before a microphone at a studio in Brant Rock, Mass., and proceeded to play “O Holy Night,” a live, wireless performance that was heard by ships in the North Atlantic who were expecting a Morse code transmission. Fessenden’s recital was followed by a reading of the Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.” It is credited with being the world’s first radio broadcast.
“It’s so fitting that an improbable voice would cry out in the darkness with a message of hope — a message that came to us in an unsuspecting place — that Jesus Christ, our Lord, is born and God is with us,” said Bishop Burns, who celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. “It is so very important for us to know that in the darkness of our world and in the darkness of our lives, Christ comes to be with us — to be one of us. And our God loves us so much he became one of us.”
Bishop Burns called that famous broadcast a “special gift” for those people out at sea on Christmas Eve.
“And what a special gift it is for us, too, to receive the Word made flesh,” the bishop said. “And let’s not stop there — what a special gift it would be for others if you brought forth the gift of God’s word to them. If you brought forth the very gift of compassion, love and mercy.
“Aren’t we all called to be gift of Jesus Christ to others,” Bishop Burns added. “This day, whereby it is the custom to give gifts, God has given the gift of himself so too should we give the gift of God’s love to others. Whether people are near or far, Jesus Christ, our Lord, is with us. And we know, that we in turn, can be gifts for others. Through our words as well as through our acts of love, charity and compassion.”
Looking back on 2020 and the struggles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Burns reminded the faithful that Christmas comes at the darkest part of the calendar year.
“Christmas comes when we are in need of much more light,” he said. “This Christmas comes for us — knowing that through this patient endurance of ours, through this pandemic — we do need the hope Jesus Christ brings to us.”
In his homily, Bishop Burns pointed to the beginning of the gospel of the day (Jn 1:1-18), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“Of the four gospels, John was the last one written, and as the last one written, he had a chance to really reflect on the wondrous mystery of God becoming man for us,” the bishop said. “Those first three words take every believer back to the first three words of the Book of Genesis. John uses the past tense, letting us know that the Word existed at the time of Creation.”
Bishop Burns then noted that at one point in the scripture reading comes the realization, “And the Word became flesh and made dwelling among us.”
“What a joy it is to know that God fulfills His promise to us that He will always be with us,” Bishop Burns said. “With Christ, people are made whole. Through Christ, people are able to live the fullness of life. That’s indeed what Jesus does for us. With His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness — Jesus makes us whole once again.”
And that is His gift, the bishop said.
“In being followers of Jesus Christ, even though it is not easy, in being His followers and His disciples, we live life to the fullest.”